Luke 2:21-38, Psalm 37:1-9, 2 Peter 3:8,9
These are days of waiting—we await a vaccine—we await the return to a “non-lockdown” life—we wait the economy to normalize—for the election to finalize—for injustices to be addressed—we await Christmas—we wait for the blood test results. How do you feel about waiting? Do you enjoy a nice, long wait?
Here I sit in the waiting room. A receptionist took my name, recorded my information and I sat—in the waiting room. There is a reason it’s called a waiting room not an examine room—or a consultation room—or a treatment room. The task at hand is the name of the room: Waiting Room. In the waiting room we understand our assignment is to wait. Some do it better than others. On this day the women next to me is huffing, puffing, sighing, and checking her cell phone every other second. She is obviously not happy to be waiting so long. It’s funny how being in a waiting room moves like an Alaskan glacier. Life is in slow-mo. And we don’t like it much. We are a giddy-up and go generation. Yet if we don’t learn to wait better, ulcer’s, anxieties, and innumerable other aggravations are likely.
Lewis Smedes puts it like this: "Waiting is our destiny. As creatures who cannot by themselves bring about what they hope for, we wait in the darkness for a flame we cannot light. We wait for a 'not yet' that feels like a 'not ever.'"
When we turn to the Bible, God who is all powerful, all wise and all loving, calls us over and over to wait. Psalm 37:7 "Be still before the Lord, and wait patiently for him." Wait for the Lord, the Psalmist goes on, and keep to his way and he will exalt you to inherit the land.
God comes to Abraham. Abraham is 75 years old and God says, "Abraham, you're going to become a father. You'll be the ancestor of a great nation." But it won't happen today, it won't happen tomorrow. You know how long it was before that promise came true? Twenty-four years. Think about being 75 and being told to wait another 24 years to become a parent. That’s a long wait.
Again God told Israel, his people, that they'd be a nation, able to leave the slavery of Egypt and be independent, but they had to wait. And then God told Moses he would lead the people to the Promised Land, but they had to go to the wilderness 40 years. Again, there came the great promise that the Messiah, the Savior, the Redeemer would come. They waited generation after generation, century after century when God seemed silent. Then, strangest of all, when the Messiah came, he was recognized not by the masses but by a few.
So the Messiah came, and Jesus lived and taught, and his disciples kept waiting for him to bring in the kingdom the way they expected, to right all the wrongs. But he was crucified. At one post-resurrection appearance Christ is ready to ascend, and so they ask again, “Are you going to restore the kingdom? Is our waiting over now?"
Jesus had one more command, in Acts 1. He says, "Don't leave Jerusalem, but wait." So they did. They waited in the upper room, and the Holy Spirit came.
But that didn't mean the time of waiting was over for the human race. Paul writes in Romans 8:22-25 "We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience."
We wait and we wait. Forty-three times in the Old Testament the people are commanded to "Wait on the Lord." This theme runs through Bible to the very last words in Revelation. All right, God we get the message. We will hang on and hang in there. We're waiting for you. But here is the obvious question. Why? Why does God make us wait? If God is all powerful and all loving, why doesn't he answer us now? The complete answer to that is far above my “pay grade.” There is mystery tied to this question beyond my comprehension. But this I know—what God does in us while we wait, is often as important as what we're waiting for. Paul says while we wait for God to set things right, we suffer. But the suffering produces perseverance, and perseverance produces character, and character produces hope. (James 1:2) God produces qualities in us while we wait. Biblical waiting is not just waiting for what we want. Biblical waiting is part of the process of becoming who God wants us to be.
Waiting requires a humble heart. Waiting by its nature is an art only the humble can do, at least with grace. To wait is to recognize I am not in control. I am not calling the shots; the timing is not up to me. Waiting reminds me that I am the creature not the creator. But when we're waiting, we're not just waiting around. We're waiting on God. And God is doing something within us.
And it’s so often amidst this Humble Trust that I find myself praying the Serenity Prayer—“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change—the courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.” The Power of that prayer is in its Humble Trust.
GOD IS NEVER FRANTIC. GOD NEVER PANICS. GOD IS NEVER IN A HURRY. That sometimes irritates us who are in a hurry.
In Scripture we find the most wonderful promise attached to waiting on the Lord. But remember what we wait for is often not as important as what happens inside us when we learn to wait in patience. But the one we wait for will be worth the wait.
Isaiah 40:30-31 “Even youths will faint and be weary and the young will fall exhausted. But they that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength. The shall mount up with wings like eagles. They shall run and not grow weary. They shall walk and not faint."